Valley Smoke BBQ

Considering that Brian and I work and, of course, live together you wouldn’t think we’d need (or want) any more time with one another.  Strangely enough, even after a long day of renovation and shoveling dirt, we still kinda like each other.  We’ve recently started a weekly ‘date night’ and it’s been a nice change for the two of us.  Since our job renovating houses allows a pretty casual dress code (hello, sweats and ponytails!) its been nice to have a reason to get dressed up (by dressed up, I mean clothes that don’t have paint or dirt on them) and go out together.

Last week we decided to try Valley Smoke BBQ which had just opened in October.  BBQ is generally a pretty safe Gluten Free choice and I’d had a GF friend that had visited and said that there were plenty of GF options.  Since she survived… and even said it was pretty yummy, we decided to give it a taste.

I wasn’t quite sure how to dress for the evening.  Valley Smoke BBQ, who bills themselves as a ‘upscale smokehouse’ is located on the Intercostal Waterway in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.  We needed reservations, they valet your car, but we’d also be eating BBQ… possibly with our fingers…. Upscale Smokehouse, huh?  I shouldn’t have been worried though.  As with most of the places we’ve discovered in Ponte Vedra Beach, the dress is a comfy mix of jeans, shorts, dresses, polo shirts and sandals.  Our construction dress probably wouldn’t have blended so well, but jeans and a cute top were fine.  For the BBQed fingers, they provided denim-like napkins that were perfectly suited for upscale BBQ.

I asked for a GF menu before we were seated and the hostess supplied me with the ‘hostess copy.’  So, yes, they have a printed GF menu, but it’s just a paper copy.  (+ points for having a GF menu, – points for not having a ‘real’ menu.) The hostess did say if there was something on the regular menu that interested me, I could ask my server and the kitchen could probably make GF alterations.  (+ points for adaptability.)  Hopefully, they’ll add a real GF menu in the future, or maybe GF designations on the regular menu.  It’s not a deal breaker, but it does make me feel more valued and a bit safer, like they’re taking their GF customers seriously.  Luckily our waitress was GF too (Bonus Points!) and she was able to offer recommendations and attest to having eaten and survived.

Our waitress suggested the cornbread as a starter, but we noticed that it wasn’t on the GF menu at all, which was strange because most items were on the menu with the designation ‘Gluten Free’ ‘NO’ or the alterations necessary to make it GF (ie, remove croutons).  She said she ate the cornbread and my GF friend had even mentioned eating the cornbread, so I asked that she just check in with the kitchen, but we figured that it had just been forgotten on the GF menu.  I’m glad we tried it… the cornbread was delish!  It was more on the savory side than I normally like but I smothered my slices with all the honey-butter and I thought it was perfect.  Brian apparently prefers savory cornbread, so I actually had to share. One order was just the perfect amount for the two of us with enough left over to take home for lunch the next day.

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For the entrée we decided to share the Que for Two, which was more than enough for both of us.  We ordered the ribs, brisket and pork.  For the sides we got Bacon Garlic Green Beans, Whipped Potatoes, and German Potatoes.  I was disappointed to see that the kitchen sent out our order with the Garlic Toast on the side even though we were a GF order… It was on the side and not actually touching anything, but still…. (- points).

The food was fabulous!  Forgive my picture, it doesn’t do justice to the deliciousness that filled our table… the early evening light, reflecting off the nearby waterway, filtered through the palm leaves was absolutely perfect for the ambiance… but crap for food photography.

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After stuffing ourselves silly on BBQ and potatoes Brian rolled his eyes at the suggestion of dessert, but I’d thought ahead and saved a bit of tummy space.  We packed up some of the ribs, brisket and German Potatoes for lunch the next day and happily ordered dessert.  There were a couple of different GF dessert options, but I’ll admit that I got completely distracted once our waitress mentioned the Apple Crisp with Bourbon Ice Cream and quit listening. The Apple Crisp was piping hot and absolutely delicious.  I would highly recommend it!

IMG_1649 Valley Smoke will probably become one of our top choices in local restaurants.  Like with the other restaurants we’ve discovered along the Intercostal Waterway/Roscoe Blvd, the location is small and the parking insanely limited.  Reservations are necessary, but fortunately you can use the Open Table app.  (+ points!)

I adore the decor… even the deer-head above the fireplace… which I know would normally have bothered me, but the deer seemed so serene as he stared at me over Brian’s head.  Maybe it was the cotton blossoms in a vase beside him… I don’t know, I just liked the deer.  The decor is a mix of… rustic industrial?  Rich woods and stone mixed with wrought iron and glass.  It definitely feels upscale, but I didn’t feel like a heathen eating BBQ in the beautiful surroundings…. a very interesting combination to pull off.  Brian and I spent a silly amount of time discussing how they’d gotten the curtains hung from the galvanized pipe rods and how they would ever get them back down.  Brian says it’s probably a safety feature to keep people like me from trying to steal the curtains.  (I did really like the curtains…. )

Have you tried Valley Smoke BBQ yet?  What did you think?

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Tijuana Flats

Our new house is in a new community… so there is construction going on constantly. Which is actually not as awful as I had expected it to be.  Even when the house next door to our was under construction it wasn’t really noisy.  There seem to be small teams of trades that come, do their part and then move on to the next house.  My only problem comes from the teams that play the spunky music like you hear in the Mexican restaurants.  Apparently I’ve got some Pavlovian response going on and the second I hear Mexican music I start craving nachos and salsa.  I can’t help it… I can’t shut up about it either.  I may be making Mom and Brian slightly crazy with my constant talk about nachos.  We’ve had taco bowls for dinner twice this week!  I really hope that team moves out of earshot soon.  I don’t seem to have any uncontrollable cravings from country or rock music, so I should be fine soon.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on if we’re considering my detox or my crazed cravings…. Tijuana Flats just opened in Town Center.  Even though I’m on this 30-day Arbonne Detox I couldn’t miss the grand opening.  I checked the menu online first to make sure I wouldn’t be faced with salsa and chips as my only options… because I wouldn’t be able to resist.  They actually had a really easy to read/understand Allergy Information page.  (Why can’t they all be like this?!) It’s a nice chart that clearly list gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, nuts and fish…. and best of all… says sensible things like “dairy free if ordered without cheese.”  So often these charts leave you to wonder…. is there dairy/gluten in there somewhere that I’m not imagining?  Would it be safe if I just didn’t get cheese on it?  Is it worth the risk???

I figured I’d be safe with one of the Bowls and could even stay within most of the Detox restrictions.  I’d have to forgo the chips this time… but 20 more days and everybody better stand aside!

Mom and I tried to go at lunchtime, but that was just silly.  The parking lot was packed and cars and golf carts were circling the lot like…. well…. hungry sharks.  To celebrate their Grand Opening, Tijuana Flats was offering free burritos…. there was no way I was going to get a parking spot at noon.  Duh!

We replotted the schedule and did our grocery shopping first… on empty tummies…. Can you even imagine what I threw in the cart?!

Fortunately I was finally able to sneak into a parking space around 1:00.  Mom and I darted across the parking lot, dodging golf carts all the way and were promptly blasted back by the music and chatter from inside. I feel old just for saying this…. but damn, turn the music down! The greeter at the door supplied us with menus and when I asked about a gluten free menu she said they didn’t have a ‘menu’ but they did have the allergy info and offered to grab it from the counter for me.  I already had it on my phone, so I passed, but she did add that the people at the order counter could help me too.

After glancing at the menu, Mom and I decided to stick to our game plan… Burrito Bowls. I told the ladies at the counter that we were gluten free and they all nodded confidently, and started rattling off a long list of things that would be safe.  They even mentioned items that are gluten free, but would be at risk for cross contamination from the fryers. (Bonus Points!)  We ordered our Bowls to-go since we still had the groceries in the car and I sent Mom out to turn the A/C back on while I waited.

It was crowded and noisy (just turn the music down a little?) but all the staff was just so darn nice.  They must have been feeding them pixi-sticks and Mt Dew in the back room or something, because after that crowd I don’t know how everyone was still being friendly.  The restaurant had a giant mermaid picture on one wall and I thought about snapping a picture, but it was crowded and I didn’t think I could crop out all the people… so I guess I’ll just have to go back again soon…. for the blog.  There is a nice patio area outside where I’d probably choose to sit next time… just to avoid the noise.  When your order is ready a server comes out and YELLS your name…. repeatedly, because apparently no one pays attention, or maybe they just can’t hear either.

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The Burrito Bowls were huge and absolutely delicious.  We both ordered chicken, and had them hold the cheese and sour cream (this time).  Everything was bright and fresh.  I can’t wait until I’m done with this detox and I can try the tacos! The burritos were HUGE and look fantastic, but they’re made with a flour tortilla, so those won’t be safe for me even after the Detox Program is through.  I’m just happy to have a safe and yummy Mexican place so close to home now!

I just noticed when I went to get the link…. I can order online… OMG!!!! Just think of the snacking possibilities!

 

Tijuana Flats – Nocatee

41 Settlement Drive

Ponte Vedra, FL 32081